Alumni Spotlight: Where Are They Now?

July 17th, 2017

The FKAR team had the privilege of interviewing Summit Shah (ETA ’04-’05) and Ray Sawyer (ETA ’13-’14), who generously offered to share their insight on the Fulbright experience and its impact on the work they do today.

Summit Shah, ETA 2004

What is your current occupation?
I am an academic physician at Stanford University, specializing in urologic cancers such as kidney, prostate, testicular, and bladder cancers. In addition to caring for patients, I conduct clinical research trials on immunotherapy and also focus on digital health technologies.

How did your experience as an ETA impact your life’s work?
As an ETA 10 years ago, I was able to witness Korea in the midst of a rapid economic and technological transformation. With this rise of urbanization came a shift in the national healthcare burden characterized by chronic, non-communicable diseases. I am very interested in the utilizing digital technology to provide access to chronic disease care and expertise in resource poor settings in the international community.

What is your biggest piece of advice for current ETAs?
Embrace being outside of your comfort zone for a year. It’s rare to have opportunities where we struggle to communicate, struggle to navigate, and struggle to build and maintain relationships. Through this struggle we reflect, grow, and learn to appreciate the diversity around us.

What is the biggest challenge you faced as an ETA?
Being a vegetarian was somewhat difficult in Korea. My host mom made me quite a few peanut butter and egg sandwiches. I never had the heart to tell her it wasn’t the best combination.

What is your favorite memory from Korea?
By far, the best part of the ETA year was coming away with a group of friends who remain some of my closest to this day. We have spoken at each other’s weddings, visited each other’s children, and occasionally get together just to keep up our norebang skills. I feel very fortunate to have been a part of such a great group of fellow ETA’s.

 

Raymond Sawyer, ETA 2013

What is your current occupation?
I work in People Operations, Google’s version of Human Resources. My main responsibility is to support the hiring efforts for critical technical positions at our California headquarters. More recently, I was a consultant for our global operations team to improve the way we onboard new hires in all our geographic regions.  Since graduating college, I’ve aimed to put myself in environments of global influence. I suspect this will continue as I further my career aspiration of bringing more cultural competency to business practices.

What is your biggest piece of advice for incoming ETAs?
You may get homesick, and that is okay. At several periods in my grant year, I really longed to get back to my loved ones stateside. This caused me to 1) appreciate my family and friends more when I returned, and 2) truly seek out ways to plug into my community in Korea. Not long after I started volunteering in a local church, where the school-aged kids reminded me of my nieces and nephews. Additionally, I joined a basketball team and made some of my best friends ever.   

How did your experience as an ETA impact your life’s work?
My year in Korea solidified the fact that I’m at my best when I’m trying to put myself in someone else’s shoes. As a black man, most of my life I have been misunderstood and judged prematurely. My goal is to help others not have that same reality. Being immersed in a foreign culture mandated I view the world differently, and I hope to continually find different viewpoints to help me better connect with people globally.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as an ETA?
It was hard feeling like I had to be an expert on all things America. Coming from a rural town in North Carolina, I felt like I didn’t know about the most iconic parts of the USA and would disappoint my students. Eventually I learned that just being me was enough, but it took a while.

What is your favorite memory from Korea?
My fondest memories involve my host family. Playing Go-Stop in the evenings after dinner was one of my personal favorites. I knew my parents and two brothers had accepted me as part of the family when my host mom included me as a recipient of her playful trash talk.

What is your favorite quote or personal motto?
“I’m not saying I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.”― Tupac Shakur

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